Digital Air Photos of B.C.

Aerial photographs, or air photos, are images taken of the ground from a high altitude. Air photos are used for a variety of applications, such as viewing an area over time and noting the changes in land use.

The provincial government has over 2.5 million air photos of British Columbia, dating back to 1936. To date, about 500,000 air photos have been scanned from film into digital format. The B.C. Government is continuing to convert historical air photos into a digital format so they can be accessed online.

Product Details

Aerial photographs are exposed at various altitudes using a variety of conventional and digital cameras, providing overlapping (stereo) coverage of the ground.

Most areas of British Columbia are covered by air photos that are less than ten years old, with large areas covered by medium scale photography.

Black and white aerial photography is available for all of B.C. at a variety of scales and, in some areas, dating back more than fifty years. Colour aerial photography is becoming increasingly available for more areas of the province.

Before planning an aerial survey, fill out the necessary information on this form:


A photographic scale indicates that one unit of distance on an air photo is a representation of a specific number of the same units of actual ground distance. Scales can be expressed as a:

  • Unit equivalent (e.g. 1 cm = 200 m)
  • Representative fraction (e.g. 1/20,000)
  • Ratio (e.g. 1:20,000)

The scale range for block aerial photography is 1:10,000 to 1:70,000. The scale range of site-specific aerial photography is from 1:2,500 to 1:50,000. Not all scales are available for all areas.

A large scale photo (e.g. 1:2,500) means that ground features appear larger and more detailed. The area of ground coverage depicted on a large scale photo is less than at a smaller scale.

A small scale photo (e.g. 1:70,000) means that ground features appear smaller and less detailed. The area of ground coverage depicted on a small scale photo is more than at a larger scale.

The scale of the photography varies, depending on the height of the aircraft above the ground and the focal length of the camera used. Over mountainous terrain, the scale can vary considerably within each photo.

Stereo pairs are available for purchase by engineering and resource professionals for mapping and interpretive purposes. Some clients may be interested in a complete, but not necessarily stereo, picture of an area.


How to Acquire

Air photos are available to order as high-resolution digital files. Digital air photos can be certified as to true copies and date of exposure for court or litigation purposes.

Air photos can be ordered from the Base Map Online Store or opened in Google Earth:

Experienced users may download photo centre coordinates, camera calibration reports, digital indices and historical air photo indices:




Raw TIFF scan or rolls prefixed with BC/BCB/BCC/BCD

$18.50 each

Air photo certification, true copy or date of exposure

$15.00 per copy of film record

Delivery Times


Delivery Time

Digital air photo scans (TIFF)

10–15 business days, not including statutory holidays

Indices & Film Rolls

Air photo indices, or index maps, graphically represent where aerial photographs were taken relative to their geographical location. With indices, users are able to ascertain the film roll and frame numbers required to cover an area of interest.

Air Photo Viewer

The Air Photo Viewer is a Google Earth tool that allows users to view and order digital aerial photographs of B.C.

Historical Index Map Viewer

The Historical Air Photo Index Map Viewer is a Google Earth tool that allows users to view B.C.'s original set of air photo flight indices.